Ozawa faces fresh donations scandal

¥100 million said given to aide between 2004 and 2005

Kyodo News

Ichiro Ozawa, secretary general of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, faced fresh allegations of illegal donations Thursday after a source connected with an engineering firm told prosecutors that unreported contributions had been made to one of his aides when the contractor sought to get in on an Iwate Prefecture dam project.

During questioning by prosecutors, the source, who is connected with Mizutani Construction Co., based in Kuwana, Mie Prefecture, said ¥100 million in cash was given to Ozawa’s secretary between 2004 and 2005. Others also backed up this allegation.

Political fund reports for 2004 and 2005 submitted by an Ozawa-related political group contain no reference to the cash.

If the source’s statements are true, it would mean Ozawa’s organization violated the political fund control law, which bans the receipt of unreported donations.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office is investigating to determine if illegal donations were made.

Ozawa secretary Takanori Okubo, 48, was charged in March with taking and falsely reporting illegal political donations from Nishimatsu Construction Co., a midsize general contractor.

The Mizutani Construction-related source claimed it was decided to give cash to Ozawa because his team had a reputation for influencing the selection process for companies seeking large public works projects, and the contractor wanted in on the ¥244 billion Isawa dam project in Iwate Prefecture. Ozawa represents Iwate in the Lower House.

One of Ozawa’s secretaries received the cash, the source said, without identifying the aide.

Mizutani Construction has received orders to work on parts of the dam project.

At that time, Okubo was Ozawa’s liaison for general contractors, while Tomohiro Ishikawa, 36, a Lower House member who was an Ozawa secretary until 2005, was mainly in charge of handling donations.

Ishikawa’s office denied receiving ¥100 million. Mizutani Construction declined comment.

Ishikawa became Ozawa’s secretary in 1996 and unsuccessfully ran for election from the Hokkaido No. 11 district in the September 2005 Lower House poll.

He won a seat in the Lower House after Satoshi Arai decided to run in the Hokkaido gubernatorial election. Ishikawa retained his seat in the Lower House election last August.

Ozawa stepped down as DPJ president after Okubo’s arrest and was replaced by Yukio Hatoyama, who went on to become prime minister.